Tens of thousands of poor Ohioans would lose food stamp benefits under a policy change proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration.
If the rule takes effect, more than 61,000 Ohio households would no longer qualify for the program, or roughly 8% of the nearly 800,000 total households receiving food stamps, according to a recent analysis. The average monthly benefit is $153.
In addition, thousands of children could lose eligibility for the free and reduced-price school lunch program because their enrollment in food stamps qualifies them for lunches.
The Trump administration says the change would close a loophole allowing ineligible Americans to receive food stamps.
The plan drew harsh criticism this week from Ohio Democrats who say it would hurt the neediest and most vulnerable residents.
In a letter this week to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sam Perdue, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, along with several colleagues, urged the administration to drop the plan.
“This rule is yet another example of the Trump Administration ignoring congressional intent and proposing a self-initiated, flawed rule that will take food assistance away from millions of Americans, disproportionately affecting children, seniors and working families,” the senators wrote.
Under the proposal, states could no longer deem people eligible for food stamps because they have qualified for other forms of government assistance, a policy known as broad-based categorical eligibility. The option allows applicants to get around personal asset limits.
Ohio is one of more than 40 states utilizing the policy.
In a separate letter this week, Ohio congressional Democrats asked Gov. Mike DeWine to reject the plan.
Reps. Joyce Beatty of Columbus, Marcia Fudge of Cleveland, Marcy Kaptur of Toledo and Tim Ryan of Niles said Ohio’s 13.7% rate of residents experiencing food security is higher than the national average of 12.3%.
The Trump administration’s proposal not only takes food away from poor families, it takes away administrative flexibility and creates more paperwork for the state and those who rely on the help, they wrote. Similar proposals have twice been rejected by Congress, they added.
In a joint statement, the representatives said, “the treatment of our poor and most vulnerable citizens in this way is inhumane and irresponsible.”
Neither DeWine nor the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which administers food stamp benefits, would comment on the plan.
DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said state officials are monitoring the proposal but have not provided comment or feedback to federal regulators.
The food stamp program is administered by states under federal guidelines. Under current law, states have the option of using broad-based categorical eligibility to allow those receiving welfare and similar benefits to automatically qualify for food stamps.
If the rule goes into effect, applicants with gross income above 130 percent of the federal poverty level, about $27,000 a year for a family of three, and those with more than $2,250 in assets, will no longer qualify for benefits.
An analysis released this month by Mathematica, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found nearly 1 in 10 food stamp households nationwide — about 3.6 million people — would lose benefits if the plan is implemented.
An earlier report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated 3.1 million people could be cut from the program, with a net savings to taxpayers $9.3 billion over five years.
The public comment period on the proposal closed this week.